Saturday, April 25, 2015

Not as bad as it sounds ...

As Deb has mentioned, Kintala's Deck Monkey is operating at far less than 100%. A full day's rest in Styron Creek helped, but impending weather made getting a move-on imperative. A second day's rest was not to be. The anchor was weighed and Kintala set forth, but the weight of said weighing did me in. For the rest of the day just moving brought a gasp and a wince, though by day's end I could stand at the helm to help un-weigh the anchor just north of the Alligator River Swing Bridge, at a place called "Sandy Point".

The holding at Sandy Point is pretty good, the only good thing about the place. It is completely exposed in every direction, a deficiency exacerbated by it being nearly completely choked off with crab pots. We had followed a power cruiser in. Both boats spent much time sniffing around for a spot free enough to swing. We each found one, which pretty much used up all the space left by the crabbers. (We also found pots strewn haphazardly across the ICW in the Albermarle, black ones nearly impossible to see – I would like to meet the idiot who thinks that is a good idea. Indeed, crabbers are falling way down my list of watermen to be respected. I'm not asking that the whole ocean be a crab-pot free zone, just enough of it so the rest of us can still find it useful, and find a place to stop for the night.)

Come this morning we really needed to make our escape. Forecasts had the impending weather really, well, impending. The choice was to go back to a marina several miles in the wrong direction, or on to Coinjock, thirty miles in the direction we needed to go. Our take on the weather had going to Coinjock as the better option.

Coinjock lay on the other side of the Albermarle Sound from Sandy Point. The Albermarle has a bit of a reputation among those who sail the ICW. Compared to places like The Dismal Swamp, the Albermarle is a big body of water nearly open to the Atlantic, shallow, and prone to throwing steep and closely-spaced pounding waves at the incautious or unlucky. It was pond quiet and sunny when we motored across it back in 2013, with several people telling us how lucky we had been. There was little hope that it would be the same today.

The first task to going was that whole “weighing the anchor” thing, something well beyond my poorly functioning self. The best I could do was stand at the helm and hope Deb wouldn't get hurt trying to get the Mantus on board. Silly me. First the chain came aboard an easy armful at a time as she had me move the boat this way and that to stay over the rode. She got the anchor off the bottom and to the surface, but couldn't get it lifted onto the roller. I feared that would be the case. It is often all I can do to get it there myself. I was sure we would have to drift among the crab pots so I could go forward and add my manly efforts to help the Lady make the lift.

Silly me.

Deb shushed me back behind the helm where I could actually be of some use. Going to the mast she freed the spinnaker halyard, moved forward, clipped it to the anchor chain. Back at the mast a wrap or two went around the winch and, with the aid of the small winch handle, she cranked the anchor up onto the roller without a strain. Anchor secure, deck cleared, everything stowed, we went about crossing the Albermarle.

Somewhat chagrined at my obvious status of being redundant equipment, I insisted on staying at the wheel. Actually, the nature of my hurt is such that standing slightly hunched over, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, is one of the more comfortable positions I can find. If one is familiar with Kintala's cockpit layout, one knows that it is also the exact position someone who stands about six feet tall must assume when standing behind the helm.

Winds in the Albermarle, forecast to be five knots or less out of the west, were 15 to 18 due out of the east. The waves were lumped up and close together, the Beast laboring to keep five knots of SOG. Kintala shook a bit, giving me a look that said, “Well, could we get ON with it please?”

We spun out the little head sail, pushing the speed closer to six knots and giving the boat the muscle needed to ignore the waves. I got another look of, “PLEASE would you GET WITH IT?” We added the big jib, cranked both sails in tight. Kintala leaned over, SOG went to 7+ in the higher gusts, spray flew and children all over the world smiled. (Okay, I made that last bit up.)

Flying both head sails without the main is a strange combination. It only works when the Beast is in the mix with the apparent wind well forward of the beam. But when it works, it works really, really well. (For those who might wonder we set both the running back stays when we load the rig this way.) A cold, wet, gray, lumpy Albermarle was just a dance floor for a salt stained Kintala. Hours ahead of plan we were tied up to the dock in Coinjock, taking on fuel, making use of the pump-out, and topping off the water. Later I stood in the very nice, very hot shower long after the motion activated, timed lights went out. I'm still far short of 100%, but we are within a day's reach of mile Zero of the ICW, living on our boat, doing what we need to do when we need to do it to get to the things we need to get to.

It isn't always comfortable, but it isn't a bad way to live either.

(Ed note: sorry no pictures. When it wasn't raining I was too busy to take them and then it rained.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Did you hear the screeching halt?

The Princes Mia, our friend Martijn's boat at the Town Dock in Oriental.

The sliver of moon over Kintala at the Town Dock
We left the free town dock in Oriental yesterday because we had already exceeded the stay limit and our good friend Martijn needed the space. We probably should have stayed. A few days ago Tim started showing signs of some illness - allergies, cold, flu? No clue, but he was definitely exploring the bounds of misery. One of his big allergies is to pine pollen and we were spending inordinate amounts of time meandering with the river through pine forests full of it. And the wind was blowing it his way. Sneezing, watery eyes and a resumption of his December cough ensued.We dropped the hook at the beautiful Styron Creek anchorage early due to some nice wind filling the genoa, and he almost immediately dropped to the settee where he has been residing ever since, with the exception of a short foray to the V-berth last night. Tea hasn't helped much and we're exhausting all options in the medicine cabinet to no avail. Hopefully after another night he'll be able to resume the trip. This is one instance where the lack of an electric windlass has actually become a safety issue. I can't raise the 65# Mantus by myself and if we had to get to medical assistance we would simply have to attach a buoy and leave it there. The medical assistance issue reared its ugly head last night as his asthma was kicking in and he was having some difficulty getting his breath. We opted to stay here another day because medical assistance is eight miles away. If we had gone on to the next stop, the same assistance would have been nearly 45 miles. It's one of the things we accepted when we began this venture, that of being isolated from help in an emergency and while cruising is generally a very safe way to live (way safer than going anywhere in a car), there does exist some level of risk. He seems to be doing a bit better this evening, though, so with a bit of good rest tonight we can hopefully resume our trek northward. The geese are passing us by.

The parade out of Oriental in the morning.
Fortunately everything below was stowed. For the next half hour we heard a steady stream of complaints on the radio.
Apt name for the boat...I can think of another one but it's not very lady-like.
There are dozens of these fishing boats up and down the river.
And some very unique ones as well.
For an hour or so the boys were out playing touch-and-goes from the runway near by.
This is a beautiful anchorage with many faces.

First Love

Your first boat will always hold a special place in your heart. When we found Nomad, we really couldn't afford to buy her but we risked it and reaped the rewards. She was sturdy, stout, and oh so forgiving of our stupid newbie tricks. She patiently taught, we slowly learned.

When the time came for new dreams, Nomad moved on. She stretched her wings to a huge lake in Idaho, plenty of room to romp the way she loved, flouncing her drifter skirts with no shallows to worry her keel the way Carlyle Lake did. Her new owner was happy, and we were happy she had a good home.

That owner recently fell on hard financial times, and once again Nomad was looking for a new home. I received an email this week from her newest owner and it seems that Nomad's string of good fortune is unbroken. She has found a devoted, skilled, caring owner with plenty of time on his hands to care for her. She sports a new roller furler, a beautiful new cabinet in the galley, and some loving small improvements throughout. 

The time to send her on her way was definitely at hand in 2011, but we will always remember her with fondness, and we're so happy her trail of Good Kharma seems to be unbroken.

Fair Winds Nomad, and treat your new sailing partner well.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Okay then …

(Ed note: Sorry for the lack of interesting pictures but it's been raining too hard to get the camera out. I guess I need a waterproof camera if we're going to do the ICW...)
This is the ICW we know and remember. Rain, chilly, (hate to say “cold” after the winter the Midwest endured) with the weekend power boater antics just a joy to behold. Though, to be honest, the worst offender was a power cruiser who waked Kintala hard enough to put her aft cleat underwater, the wave breaking just short of being in the cockpit. It was a very hard hit that we could do nothing to avoid. He came up from behind and passed close by the starboard side, though we were in a bay at the time with miles of open water to work with.

For my grandsons - one of the many tugs and barges and work boats on the ICW. This one is the Army Corps of Engineers.

For the next hour or so the VHF shared a constant stream of bitter comments directed at this clown as he bullied his way northward through the parade of boats. I have no rationale for saying this, but I think he is the kind of person who was enjoying himself; getting a sort of twisted satisfaction offending people who could do nothing in response. Getting distance from such people is one of the joys of living on a boat, though clearly they can be found anywhere. At least we are not stuck living near such a wasted excuse for human DNA, or in his district or State. (Yes, I suspect this particular personality quirk is common among political, religious, and corporate leaders. At least here in the US.)

The staysail gives us at least 1/2 knot help
He was the worst offender, though later some little sport fisher apparently got a kick out of playing chicken. He slalomed around the boat ahead of us and pointed his bow directly at ours. Just as I was reaching for the horn he cut hard around our starboard side. We didn't wave at each other. The last was a bit laughable. A kid on a fishing skiff waited until we were next to him to firewall his engine and take off in a burst of boiling water, which was just enough to have the 23,000 pound Kintala barely nodding her head. He gave it a good try though and his intent was noted.

But hey, we are nearly two-thirds of the way to our destination. Had the ICW not been an option we would still be in Charleston waiting on a weather window. So in six days of motoring (and nursing what help we could out of the staysail – love having it on a furler) we touched down in Oriental. Here we will take a couple of days to do some needed projects and visit with friends. Getting in just before dark yesterday was a bit of a ride. As we passed the first marker for the channel a 30 knot gust front knocked us sideways, then dumped buckets of rain on our already soaking wet bodies. No chance of docking in that kind of weather. Pointing the bow back out into the Neuse and waiting for it to pass was the only safe option. An hour or so later we were approaching the pier. As the storm blew itself out the last of the winds ended up being directly on the bow as we entered the slip. That – for a change - made docking exceptionally easy. It was a nice parting gift since Deb was handling the lines alone while I drove the boat.

These folks going south on the ICW got a lot of help from their sail.

The free dock here is nice but has a pronounced lip, which had us concerned about catching the fenders on the rising tide. We tied off the best we could and I set the alarm for an 0130, check the mid-tide, wake up call. Stepping out into the rain I was completely confused to find that the boat had not moved at all and all lines and fenders were just fine. Being the intelligent person that I am, at 0500, at what I thought was going to be low tide based on the nearest Garmin reporting point, I went out in the rain to check again. Maybe the tide was running late or the moon was behind schedule? But the water level was the same. It turns out there is no tide here, something about it being a bay and a river or some such. It is a detail that I had completely forgotten in the time that has passed since we were here last. Time where tides and currents became an integral part of every day's living and decision making. So I plead being sleep deprived, wet, cold, and sore, for wondering what could possibly have happened in the cosmos to make the tides stop working at 0130 in the morning. It is a good thing that sailboats go slow since for clearly, some times, I have trouble keeping up.

One of the many boat yards and marinas that line the ICW.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A small ICW photo essay

I don't have very many pictures of the last few days because the weather has been so bad that I haven't wanted to risk my camera. These pictures are the few that I have been able to grab in between rain showers. Unfortunately, the light hasn't been very conducive to good photos but if you really want to see what the ICW is like, then I guess these are pretty accurate.

The anchorage at Bull Creek is a new favorite. We would like to see it in October when the leaves change colors.

I took this while cooking breakfast as we were underway. This is what you see out the galley port mile after mile.

One of the many swing and bascule bridges that we have to call to open.

You see all kinds of houses on the ICW from multiple million dollar ones to these middle range ones to, yes, trailer parks.

You can't trust the charts. Use your eyes. We were actually in the middle of the channel when I took this one
One of the few breaks we got from the rain today but the next storm was on the horizon already.

This mud was about a half of a boat length from our boat. The channel is very very narrow in some places.

We saw a lot of this view today.

One of the more interesting houses we saw today.

When we got to the Mile Hammock anchorage at Camp LeJuene, the wind totally died. it was stunning.

One of the 20 or so boats anchored with us at Mile Hammock

The reflections of the sunset on the water
A fish jumped and left ripples

It started to get fuzzy as son as the sun went behind the clouds. I expect there will be fog in the morning.

This panorama was so awesome that I put the full size up. Scroll to see the whole thing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Here in the ICW ...

The Arthur Ravenel Bridge leaving the Charleston Harbor
Kintala and her crew have now logged two days of ICW travel. We were hoping to avoid “The Ditch” until ducking behind Cape Hatteras. Somehow though, sidetracked by the Islands, we are running out of days to get to our tropical baked selves to places north. Weather on the outside has winds from the exact wrong direction pushing uncomfortable waves directly across our path. If we didn't need to be where we need to be when we need to be there, we would be sitting out a wait in places warm and fun; Fernandina Beech, or Vero. Maybe Savannah. But press on we must, with The Ditch being the only workable alternative.

The first day, from Charleston to a place called Awendaw Creek, was a really good day. I know. A “really good day on the ICW” is an oxymoron, but it is true. Deb planned things perfectly. High tides provided deep water when and where we needed it, and a following current had us making tracks at better than six knots for most of the way. Good stuff indeed. What a difference 2000 miles and nearly two years of experience can make.

Getting a knot of help from the staysail while motoring.
The run today, this time to a place called Bull Creek, was a bit less good. Schedule and distance meant running some pretty skinny water at low tide. Skinny, as in “0.0” on the depth gauge skinny. I much prefer a readout that says “Last 990”.

Here's an idea, we should dredge the entire ICW to a depth of 1000 feet. Years of work for thousands of skilled operators of machines, engineers, managers, supply, accountants, and lawyers (lots and lots of lawyers). Not only would the ICW be so much easier to navigate and billions of dollars get pumped through family budgets and back into the economy, but all that extra depth wold help off-set some sea level rise. Maybe Florida would get a few more years before Miami is east of waterfront property? And all that excavated dirt could be put to lots of good uses, maybe build a break water around the Dinner Key Mooring Field, or buy Miami a few more years by building them a moat.

Not too many people headed north yet. We have only seen about 3 other boats.
I know, crazy idea. But well within the realm of crazy for some who are running for President of these United States. Some of those folks are Young Earth Creationists who ALSO think that climate change is a vast conspiracy concocted by scientists to keep oil companies from making a fair profit. They also claim that racism has been eradicated in this country and that women really do make the same amount of money as men for doing the same job. Dredging the ICW to 1000 feet? Small potatoes, light-weight, barely noticeable crazy in comparison. Someone should write a position paper, they can even keep the credit. (Can you tell we are back in the land of “news”?)

The anchorage at Awendaw Creek. Really like this place.

In addition to the thin water we experienced this morning, we also enjoyed the forgotten joys of a passing cold front. In the Islands “cold front” really means rain, wind, and a day slightly less warm than the day before. In the US, “cold front” means “&*)&^ its COLD! Layers, mittens, caps, and fowl weather gear were the uniform of the day for those in the ICW. Well, except for those in trawlers. They waved, shirt sleeved and cold drink in hand, from behind the closed doors of steering stations, wipers clearing the rain from their view. Wimps. (Or just smarter than me, not sure which at the moment.) After ten plus hours of mostly easy motoring, it was still a relief to drop the hook, come in out of the rain, and use a little extra water for a long, and very hot, shower. One must admit that the Beast does a really good job of heating up water, so even a day of motoring has an up side.

Sunrise in the haze at Awendaw Creek

We hope to press on in the morning but there is some concern about the weather. One forecast has winds gusting in the 30s. There is a swing bridge ahead that will not swing if the wind is over 25. So we may have to spend the day parked here, which is not a terrible idea. If we have to spend a day parked somewhere, I have seen a lot of places not nearly as pretty as this. At least, it was pretty when we came in. Now, well after sunset, with a low overcast dropping rain all around, mostly what it is is DARK, really quiet, and cold. All of which should make for a pretty good night of sleeping, here in the ICW.

Seen parked along the ICW